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Children 18:3: A band working its way forward

By Tom Larson

Morris Sun Tribune

By the definition of most, the members of Children 18:3 have been living a hectic lifestyle in the three years since the Morris-area band signed its first recording deal.

It's a life that many in the music business know well, but it's one that those who see them play once or twice a year can't fully grasp. There are the 120 to 130 dates played each year. For every day on a stage, David, Seth and LeeMarie Hostetter can count on many others spent driving their red van to and from town after town.

But there are no complaints. In fact, Children 18:3 believes it's work ethic as well as talent that helped it climb to the top of the Christian music industry.

"It's a lot of work, but any job is a lot of work," said guitarist and songwriter David Hostetter. "A lot of people have jobs they're at eight hours a day or even 10 or 11 hours a day, especially if they want to do a good job. You get out of it what you put into it."

Children 18:3 put a lot into putting out their second album, "Rain's 'a Comin'," for Tooth & Nail Records this summer. The album follows their self-titled first Tooth & Nail release in 2008.

Their tour schedules are packed with festivals, such as Willmar's Sonshine Festival, and single-appearance dates. They've played -- and toured with other bands -- all over the U.S., especially the south, midwest and west. The band also is again venturing overseas, with a return trips to Germany and a first-time trip to Holland for a music festival on its schedule yet this year.

And then there is more recording in the future.

"A lot more people know about us," said drummer Seth. "We're playing in better shows."

"It's been a lot busier the last few years," bassist LeeMarie said.

And yet the members of Children 18:3 still appear well at ease in their rural home, taking a break from practice to grill some ribs and relax in front of a fan on a muggy July afternoon.

"We don't want to burn out," Seth said with a smile.

The band started rather organically in 1999 when the Hostetters were in their early teens: Playing at a friend's graduation party with another musician friend, they soon realized making music would be an interesting and fulfilling way to make a living.

With more work, Children 18:3 established itself as a staple of regional Christian music festivals, won a prestigious "battle of the bands" competition at Club 3 Degrees in Minneapolis, and recorded two EPs, "Places I Don't Want to Go" in 2004 and "Song of Desperation" in 2007.

In 2006, Children 18:3 was named the country's best unsigned band by the Christian rock magazine, HM. The band didn't hold that title long, signing with Tooth & Nail in the summer of 2007, and the real rock and roll lifestyle reached full tilt.

After touring almost continually last fall, the band returned to Nashville to record "Rain's 'a Comin' " with the producer of its first album, Steve Wilson. Children 18:3 spent 10 days recording in December 2009, took a break from the studio to tour in January, then returned to finish recording the new album in February. They recorded and produced a music video of the song "Cover Your Eyes" in Columbus, Ohio, in May and released it and the new album in June.

The band relished the additional time to record -- the first album took five weeks from beginning to end -- and grew more comfortable living and working in what is arguably the music capital of the U.S.

"We didn't know anyone the first time we were in Nashville," Seth said. "We were staying seven miles away from the studio, in a motel. It wasn't as fun an experience."

Now, Wilson's studio is located near downtown Nashville, and Children 18:3 are constantly running into other musicians they've met while recording, touring or through their connections with a church in Nashville.

"We've been to Nashville quite a bit now," Seth said. "There are a lot of people we know. We feel closer to Nashville now."

And the band has learned well the ways of the music industry, and the diligence and collaboration needed to survive in it.

When Children 18:3 entered the studio to work on "Rain's 'a Comin' ", David didn't have all the songs the band would need to fill out a record. So, with the help of Wilson, the band wrote three songs in the studio, a process David described as "scary."

"That would never be my first choice but it came out really well," said David, noting that the record's first radio single, "Lost So Long," was one of the songs written during the recording process. "I just didn't have enough songs."

That experience helped change the way David approaches songwriting, and, of course, it involves working harder.

"The last couple of years, I waited for (song ideas) to come, but I don't think that's right," he said. "You have to work at it, every day. You can't wait for UPS to bring a box of inspiration."

The band is getting better as it grows up. David, 25, Seth, 24, and LeeMarie, 22, have almost a decade under their belts as a working band and they've matured greatly since their career took off three years ago.

The band vows to get out more to learn about the places where they play but it isn't easy, especially for David, a self-avowed perfectionist. He likes to get to the venue early and make sure the sound, the stage, everything, are up to his exacting standards. LeeMarie said the band takes pains to ensure each show is the best it can be.

"There are some shows where it's just not going well, but you can't say, 'Oh well, we've got another show tomorrow and we'll be better,' " LeeMarie said. "There might be somebody there and this is the only show they'll see this year or whatever, so you have to make it as good as you can."

That kind of professionalism is evident in the studio, too, Seth said.

"We're getting better as musicians," Seth said. "We go in with a lot more knowledge about how to do things, how we want the end product to sound like."

Experience is helping the band craft a much tighter stage show.

"We're learning to do a better live show, how to connect with the audience," LeeMarie said. "How to load on (equipment), how to talk to promoters."

Children 18:3 has contemplated moving to Nashville to be closer to the core of the industry and to reconnect with friends they've met there and on the road. But the Hostetters also like to return to Minnesota to hang out with their childhood friends and pursue their other interests, such as community stage productions.

"It's fun to make time for the other things we're doing," LeeMarie said.

So the busy life of a working band continues, putting in long miles in the van, playing, writing and always being away from somewhere and someone.

"We've got friends at home, we're making good friends all over the country," LeeMarie said. "You're always missing somebody."